Why Gen X may be handling this quarantine better than Gen Z

To us, this concept of locking ourselves away and learning to entertain ourselves is absurd. But to our parents, it’s nothing new.  

The generation before Millennials is known as “Gen X” but many refer to this as the “Latchkey Gen”. Which reflects how as children they would return home from school to an empty home. 

I’ve only been in an empty home for week one and I’ve gone completely crazy. I’ve rearranged my room three times, I’ve been listening to SZA’s Ctrl album on a loop, and I even went on a run. It’s insane. I never really realized how hard it is to entertain myself at home. I can’t wait to see how my screen time has skyrocketed.

COVID-19 has completely changed my way of life — I actually miss school. But I’ve noticed that my parents are so calm while my brother and I bounce off the walls. Yesterday my brother and I ran up and down the hallway screaming while my parents both kept busy. 

My mom is a student at Northwestern and has been doing online school for two years so she just works all day. While my dad, who usually is in every room at once, hasn’t left his office all week. 

I’m in utter shock. But they spent most of their time alone as kids. My mom would come from school and take care of her little brother then take the bus to swim practice. All by herself. 

My dad is the youngest, so he came home to an empty house every day. I think I would have eaten all the food in the house if I were them. 

This self quarantining has shown me  how dependent I am on outside distraction to help me keep my sanity. I rely on school, sports, and friends to keep me from going crazy. But now, cooped up in my room, all I have is me and Canvas, which is a very dangerous combination.

I actually first saw this on twitter when #LatchKey began trending. (Twitter will become my best friend for the next month) A tweet explaining how LatchKey kids need to take leadership and show people how to self quarantine, caught my eye. 

When coming home they would be on their own for hours. They had to be resourceful, and so they would find ways of entertaining and caring for themselves.  personally, I don’t know how to do this. Most nights I don’t get home till nine because of clubs and practices. 

I had never really thought about it, but the more I do, the more sense it makes. I realize that our parents’ generation is more isolated and problem solving focused. Our generation is ambitious and goal driven, which explains why we are struggling with this so much more.

COVID-19 is a serious pandemic and it’s hard for young people like us to put our life on pause. We insist on moving a mile a minute. Everyone is involved in tons of sports, activities, and clubs. We had so much to look forward to with the end of the year, some of us were very close to achieving our goals. So this transition won’t be easy for us, but luckily we have our parents and others who have lived more independent lives to help us in this scary time.

Let this pause serve as a way to identify how to slow life down. This pandemic is forcing us to realize how valuable and fragile life is, we need to learn how to enjoy it. I know I won’t complain about going to school anymore.

I for one am excited to have this new found free time. I’ve made a list of hobbies I want to pick up like art and guitar, I also want to brush up on my Italian. Now the odds of me doing these things are slim to none, but I think this time will cause a shift in our generation. I honestly don’t know what we will make out of these next weeks or months, but I do know that I am interested in seeing how different our lives will be after this.